Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Blue Öyster Cult: Secrets Revealed! by Martin Popoff (Metal Blade)

One has to be somewhat maniacal to compile a user's guide to BÖC, but Popoff's sober, academic tone almost never falters. Originally written for his own amusement and that of fellow BÖC insider/fans, the chronological tome (largely culled from his own interviews, supplemented by citations from Circus, Creem, Trouser Press and other topical rags) offers firsthand background on every album, putting the music at center stage and only incidentally revealing band rivalries that transformed them from near unstoppable force of brainiac faux-metal to unproductive road dogs who occasionally blinker better judgment to launch a new LP. Predictably, the post-Agents of Fortune era is least compelling, though certainly analyzed at length (especially in the chapter on Sandy Pearlman's magnum opus Imaginos, a project from whence many classic Cult tunes sprung). Neither occasional lyricist Richard Meltzer nor shucked svengali Pearlman pulls their punches in critiquing the later work, but no one states the obvious: once egos blossomed and the alchemical blend of outside lyricists and internal rewrite men was abandoned, BÖC collapsed under the weight of its own pretenses. Still, as a concordance for such compelling esoterica as “She's As Beautiful As a Foot,” “Harvester of Eyes,” and “Transmaniacon MC,” Popoff's book is something of a revelation. You'll never wonder about the meaning of “ocular TB” again. -Kim Cooper

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